Living through coronavirus: Butler County comedian, without cruise ships, hunkers down

A Butler County comedian is paid to make his audience laugh, but Jeffrey Jena sees nothing funny about the coronavirus or the government’s response to the deadly disease.

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“My heart goes out to those young people who depend on those jobs and tips,” he said. “Are their landlords going to give them two months free rent? Are the utility companies not going to charge them for six months? These people had zero chance to prepare. It was instant. It’s just horrible.”

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Jena certainly has felt the ramifications of the coronavirus. He performs as a stand up comic one week a month on Carnival Cruise Lines and is part-owner of the Funny Bone in Liberty Twp. Carnival has suspended all of its operations, Funny Bone has temporarily closed and Jena has canceled all of his scheduled appearances in theaters.

Last week, the global cruise line industry suspended operations, at least in the U.S. for 30 days. The decision, announced by the Cruise Lines International Association, came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department urged Americans to avoid cruise ships, and the U.S. banned most travel from Europe.

Thirty-two million passengers were expected to embark on ocean cruises in 2020, according to CLIA. That number will certainly drop given the coronavirus pandemic.

All major cruise companies, including Carnival Cruise Lines, the world’s largest, won’t sail from American ports until at least April 11, according to the CLIA.

Jena believes the cruise lines and other businesses probably won’t reopen for at least 60 days. He called that “a generous estimate.” He wonders how long it will take for the U.S. economy to recover from the coronavirus.

Jena considers himself one of the lucky ones. He has saved up money over the years, his wife, Carrie, is a pastor at Cheviot United Methodist Church, and his son, Miles, is a junior at Ball State.

“I’m not going to be on the street anytime soon,” he said.

Contracting the coronavirus, Jena said, doesn’t “keep me awake at night.” As an entertainer, he lives in airports and hotels, traveling from city to city. In one week, as an example, he took five flights, stayed in two hotels and performed on one cruise ship.

He shakes hands, poses for pictures. Passing germs is part of the business.

All of these things are “assumed risk,” he said.

“I’m going to die some day anyway,” he said.

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